If Ojukwu did not win what makes Uwazuruike and Kanu think they will, arms or no arms?A few years ago when the idea was an infant, a senior security official had sought my opinion of the group. I suggested that he should engage them in a conversation so as to find out what was biting them. He shouted "No way," the equivalent of what we would call in street language "tufiakwa" (God forbid). I asked myself if he already had a stone-solid and irrevocable view on the matter why did he seek my opinion. I answered that he was probably looking for an opinion that will reinforce his own and therefore reduce what social scientists call "dissonance." Unfortunately, he did not get it from me.
Over the years, the Federal Government has initiated several policies aimed at national integration. Such policies include Creation of States, the National Youth Service Corps programme and the Federal Character Commission, among others. Unhappily, these efforts have not brought the desired fruits because some of these policies, for example, state creation, only succeeded in creating new problems of their own.
The main problem is that our Federation is too centralised to be truly useful. You do not prescribe homogeneous solutions for a heterogeneous entity and expect them to work. For this Federation to work seamlessly, it must go through a serious measure of political and fiscal restructuring. We need a new architecture that will involve reducing federal responsibility in education, health, roads, water resources, policing, transportation, industrialisation, agriculture, mining, power etc.
It is obvious that the Federal Government cannot cope with its present responsibilities. State governments now repair federal roads, fund federal universities, federal health centres, and funds the Nigeria Police Force which is federal, sometimes with a refund and sometimes without. Whether there is a refund or not there is evidence that the Federal Government does not have the wherewithal to deal with these heavy responsibilities. This neglect resonates in the states and the state governments bear the brunt of the agitations for an improved standard of living by these young agitators.
However, it is the states of the federation, not the Federal Government, that have the primary responsibility of improving the living standards of their people. All the states receive "awoof" money from the Federation account every month. Here is how the Ibo States stand in the sharing ranking: Imo 15th, Abia 17th, Anambra 19th, Enugu 29th and Ebonyi 36th. Ogun State is 25th and Cross River State is 30th yet both states appear to be doing much better than the Ibo States. Why? It is because both states are high in internally generated revenue (IGR) and perhaps better management of their resources.
In IGR, Cross River State is 7th while Ogun State is 8th. The Ibo States: Enugu 9th, Anambra 14th, Imo 16th, Abia 31st and Ebonyi 33rd. This poor ranking of the Ibo States in IGR obviously affects their standing in the human development Index (HDI). This index comprises three main pillars among others. They are poverty, education and health. States that lead in this area are Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Lagos and that is because they also lead particularly in IGR. In IGR Lagos is first, Rivers 2nd and Akwa Ibom 6th. In the HDI, Abia is 11th, Imo 12th, Enugu 13th, Anambra 25th and Ebonyi 28th. This means that the five Ibo states must pay particular attention to raising their IGR substantially as well as investing their funds in life-lifting enterprises for the benefit of their citizens.
The agitations for Biafra are basically concentrated in their domains even though it seems ostensibly aimed at drawing federal attention to their wish list. If the agitation escalates the first casualties will be their citizens and their businesses that have been disrupted many times now. If there is no peace how then can they govern?
I am almost certain that the Biafra agitators know that they will not get Buhari's blessings for a republic of Biafra. Buhari fought the war to prevent the bifurcation of Nigeria. He will not like to see Nigeria dismembered. Ojukwu threw in every wit and weapon and even promised that "even the grass will fight." In the part of Biafra where I was I didn't see the grass fight. I only saw the grass suffer.
If Ojukwu did not win what makes Uwazuruike and Kanu think they will, arms or no arms? Their agitation has gained considerable attention already and will receive, believe it or not, some attention from the Buhari government. Some people think the long ignored second Niger Bridge which is now on the priority list of Buhari's Administration is a beneficiary of the agitation. I have no way of knowing if it is true or not.
What should we do? (a) The Army is talking of crushing them. They are unarmed and the talk of crushing unarmed civilians in a democracy is revolting. Don't crush them because they are not palm kernels. (b) Some people have suggested they should be ignored. Obasanjo tried that method with the Niger Delta agitators, calling them criminals. He said he wasn't going to talk to criminals but when their agitation reduced Nigeria's oil production from 2.2 million barrels a day to 700,000 he begged them to come for a meeting. He put Asari Dokubo in a presidential suite and pampered him.
That conversation he had with them led to Umaru Yar'Adua's amnesty programme. Now the guns have fallen silent and there is an outbreak of peace in the Niger Delta. (c) Engage them in a conversation, I vote for this approach. In the first place, it is only a discussion with them that will bring out their grievances. There is the African proverb that says you cannot barb a man's hair in his absence.
As I have already said, the agitation has developed a life of its own but the agitators will not have the republic they are asking for. Refusing to talk to them is the equivalent of pouring petrol on the problem. The flame can turn into a conflagration we can do without.